The program began with 50 students, and within a year, has tripled to 150 students with even more wishing to get involved, said Bruce Burch, director of the Joel A. Katz Music and Entertainment Business Program.
“We teach students how to monetize creative content,” Burch said. “There are those who are on the creative side, but there are also those that who want to be in the music entertainment industry, those in the marketing field or management or digital media. The business has changed so much in the last decade because of the Internet … It’s so broad that we constantly find jobs that I didn’t even know existed in some cases because there are so many new areas in the industry, particularly in the digital marketing industry.”
The program became official last August, but the first students began in spring 2010, Burch said. Burch is a multi-platinum country music songwriter, co-writing music for such artists as Faith Hill, Reba McEntyre and Brad Paisley. Burch said he spent about 15 years as a full-time songwriter, writing on average about 100 songs a year.
After Burch, a Gainesville native, left his post as a full-time songwriter, he began teaching at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. That led Burch to his next position as the director of music business school at his alma mater, the University of Georgia, which he led for five years before starting the KSU music business program.
“When I was growing up, to think of going into the entertainment business was a pipe dream,” Burch said. “Now, every major company has a major entertainment division — Coca-Cola, Proctor and Gamble — because they want to use music and entertainment to brand with.”
Jason Connelly, 31, a business management major originally from Columbus who is also in the music business program, said he decided to go to KSU and get the certification mainly for the networking opportunities it would provide for him. As a working singer-songwriter and owner of Petunya Publishing, Connelly already has experience in the entertainment business but said the program thus far has been invaluable.
“My networking here has increased just because some of the seminars and programs affiliated with Kennesaw State. I was able to go forward with a couple of contacts,” Connelly said, adding that he has landed at least one business deal with a company simply because of his connections and work at KSU.
Austin Fowler, 21, of Canton, said he would like to represent artists when he graduates and that while networking is a huge part of his training, he is also finding the information and advice provided through the program to be beneficial.
“You have to jump through a lot of hoops and make sure you protect yourself,” Fowler said. “I thought it was just all about the creativity and the process, but there’s a lot more legal matters than you would think and that’s where my class is helping me out — opening my eyes to everything, every little aspect of it.”
Burch said that now is the perfect time for KSU to have a music and entertainment business training program, as the Atlanta area has become No. 3 in the country in terms of hosting film, music, video game, theater and television productions.
Burch said he is focused on getting the students into jobs rather than growing the program in its numbers, as a smaller group also helps for more one-on-one training.
“The main goal is always to help the students go out and work in this industry, so that they’re not just doing it as a side job or as a hobby,” Burch said. “We want them to go out and make a living at this and hopefully thrive and be leaders in this industry.”